Jun 2011

DC Signals I: Kato

This is the first of what will probably be two postings about simple trackside signals for DC layouts. This one will discuss the basics common to the Kato and Tomix signal systems, and then provide details about Kato. Since I’m partly looking at the Kato to see if it’s a good candidate for modification for my DCC layout, I’ll have a few comments on that as well. A future posting will cover Tomix’s richer offering, which I’m looking at for use on my DC Urban Tram Layout (which will probably use the Tomix signals), although the four-color signal heads might be something I could use for my DCC layout (nobody in the U.S. makes a four-lamp signal of this kind).

Subways of Tōkyō

You’d think someone who’s built a Tōkyō-inspired model railroad with a subway on it would know a bit about the subways of Tōkyō. But in fact when I started construction I knew next to nothing, and I’ve only recently begun to rectify that. Part of the reason is that I’ve been focused on the commuter trains of JR East, and JR doesn’t operate any subway lines (although they do operate a couple of subway trains, as we’ll see in a bit). And part of it was that models of subway trains weren’t all that common, and I hadn’t collected any.

Off in the Weeds

I’m modeling urban trains, so I don’t usually spend much time thinking about rural railroading in Japan. Which is a shame, because in some ways it’s at least as interesting. Between diesel railcars and DMUs, small electric trains (EMUs) and the “mini-Shinkansen” (standard-gauge trains operating over rural lines that interconnect to the main Shinkansen network) there’s a lot going on back in the hills. And hills they are: away from the coast Japan’s topography takes on a vertical aspect, and trains run along wooded hillsides and over ravines filled with rushing streams to reach isolated valleys that are mostly agricultural. It’s incredibly scenic.

May 2011 Status, Trams and Signmaking

After a relatively quiet winter and spring, work on the layout is picking up (most people do this in the winter, but I don’t seem to work that way). As mentioned in the last musing, I spent most of May working on the subway station of the Riverside Station scene. And I’m still basking in the glow of completing that. I go down to the basement every few days and turn the station LEDs on just to grin at it for a few minutes and think: it’s done, I actually finished something!

A big part of that was making signs using found photographs and graphics images. I’d described that briefly earlier in the month, but hadn’t gone into much detail. This method worked out very well, and I used it to produce the station platforms signs (using images from Tōkyō Metro’s website plus my own text), the subway maps (using an online map, vastly reduced in size), the advertising billboards (from photos found online), and even the vending machines on the platform (from photographs of real ones found on Flickr).